10 pro­pos­als for joined-up ur­ban de­sign

Idealog - - SECTION -

Two sets of pro­pos­als ad­vo­cat­ing for bet­ter ur­ban de­sign i n New Zealand have been pitched at the Govern­ment i n quick­fire suc­ces­sion since this year's Ur­ban­ism New Zealand con­fer­ence. Stephen Olsen takes a l ook at what Ur­ban­ism New Zealand and the New Zealand In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects ( NZIA) have separately of­fered up.

At the same time as Phil Twyford is sit­ting down with Govern­ment of­fi­cials to nut out how to op­er­a­tionalise the new Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment, he also has two sets of pro­pos­als on bet­ter frame­works for ur­ban de­sign to add to the mix.

In the wake of the Ur­ban­ism New Zealand con­fer­ence held on 14 and 15 May, the New Zealand In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects (NZIA) was first off the mark with its five pro­pos­als for the built environment. Wrapped up with its de­sire to pitch its own pro­grammes and pro­cesses – from de­sign com­pe­ti­tions to its re­la­tion­ship with Māori de­sign net­work Ngā Aho – the NZIA's five pro­pos­als in a slightly para­phrased short form are:

Let's es­tab­lish a Built Environment and In­fra­struc­ture Panel to pro­vide in­de­pen­dent ex­pert ad­vice on the de­sign of ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture and ur­ban plan­ning projects (the world needs more pan­els, oh and could we have a Chief Built Environment and In­fra­struc­ture Of­fi­cer with that, please). Just as the Govern­ment ap­points a Chief Sci­en­tist and Chief Tech­nol­ogy Of­fi­cer,

why can't we have a Govern­ment Ar­chi­tect ac­count­able di­rectly to Jacinda and Phil?

Let's bring pub­lic sec­tor risk and pro­cure­ment prac­tice into line across all agen­cies and de­part­ments and move to­wards a longer-term, value-based ap­proach (lets start manag­ing risk for the ‘greater good’).

For good­ness sake, can we have a de­sign­in­fused Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment on Built Environment and In­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide a clear reg­u­la­tory po­si­tion for de­ci­sion­mak­ers, in­dus­try and com­mu­ni­ties on the Govern­ment’s agenda and ex­pec­ta­tions?

And while we're at it, can we please also find ways to lower the hur­dles to in­vest­ing in our built environment and in­fra­struc­ture? As de­clared by NZIA, it wants to sup­port "a new con­nect­ed­ness be­tween govern­ment de­part­ments, in­sti­tu­tions, agen­cies, pro­fes­sions and the pub­lic, and wants to sup­port Ki­wiBuild by tak­ing a lead­er­ship role on is­sues of ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign ex­cel­lence and the built environment". Adding to this, the or­gan­is­ers of Ur­ban­ism New Zealand 2018 con­vened a post­con­fer­ence work­shop of 22 del­e­gates who have just re­leased their own five pro­pos­als, seeking: An im­proved and fully aligned pol­icy frame­work to ad­dress ur­ban mat­ters.

A na­tional pol­icy state­ment on Ur­ban Form (ur­ban de­sign) to be in­cor­po­rated within the RMA.

A na­tional de­sign re­view process to in­clude mon­i­tor­ing of crit­i­cal and sen­si­tive projects and pro­grammes such as Ki­wibuild. Bet­ter ev­i­dence-based de­ci­sion mak­ing backed by mea­sure­ments of value. A co­her­ent, in­te­grated and am­bi­tious de­sign re­sponse to cli­mate change.

Spokesper­son Ger­ald Blunt said these are the log­i­cal and com­pelling re­sponses to the prob­lems of poor plan­ning and poor ur­ban man­age­ment iden­ti­fied at Ur­ban­ism New Zealand.

"Our cities and towns are al­ready in­creas­ingly un­af­ford­able, they suf­fer from a lack of spa­tial plan­ning and they are gen­er­ally un­healthy,” Blunt said. “The econ­omy is suf­fer­ing be­cause of poor plan­ning and ur­ban de­sign with plan­ning sys­tems that are overly com­plex and le­gal­is­tic. Our strong view is that New Zealand’s abil­ity to de­velop re­silient towns and cities, to a world-lead­ing stan­dard, is de­pen­dent on bet­ter ur­ban de­sign to gen­er­ate pos­i­tive ef­fects for the nat­u­ral environment, the econ­omy and pub­lic health.”

Com­mend­ably, the state­ment on New Zealand Ur­ban­ism in New Zealand is­sued by Blunt and crew also draws at­ten­tion to the slav­ish mod­el­ling of our towns and cities on global pro­to­types and images.

It states: "We have an obli­ga­tion to use the ur­ban environment to tell sto­ries about our own part of the world. This his­tory can be source from tikanga Māori, Pākehā her­itage and the in­te­gra­tion of other mi­grant cul­tures.”

In essence, the pro­pos­als of NZIA and Ur­ban­ism New Zealand are strongly aligned, if not com­plete dop­pel­gangers. Be­ing the vil­lage of New Zealand it may be they didn't even swap their reck­ons that closely.

The Ur­ban­ism New Zealand group, with its Ur­ban De­sign Fo­rum cross over, wants to see a new na­tional tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sory group for cen­tral and lo­cal govern­ment to be formed as a na­tional ur­ban de­sign com­mit­tee first rather than a panel.

That said, they would also like it to morph into a per­ma­nent govern­ment de­sign agency akin to the UK's Com­mis­sion for Ar­chi­tec­ture and the Built Environment (CABE).

Both these groups – driven pri­mar­ily by ex­pert pro­fes­sion­als – are now on Phil Twyford's case to chase down face-to-face meet­ings to get these pro­pos­als pre-loaded into a joined-up pro­gramme.

The NZIA's call is for an "ur­gent meet­ing of stake­hold­ers from the fi­nance, com­mu­nity, hous­ing, de­vel­oper and govern­ment sec­tors to dis­cuss prod­ucts and pack­ages that could be de­vel­oped or mod­i­fied to sup­port Ki­wiBuild and/or other in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment.”

It has ex­pressed a con­cern that pre­fab­ri­cated hous­ing so­lu­tions have of­ten been un­nec­es­sar­ily de­layed or sub­jected to ad­di­tional costs be­cause they dif­fer from the tra­di­tional way of de­liv­er­ing hous­ing.

Within its pro­pos­als, the NZIA has sin­gled out the pub­lish­ing of the Re­build Pro­gramme of Work as one of the suc­cess sto­ries to come out of Christchurch, be­cause it set out es­ti­mated project costs, tim­ing, se­quenc­ing and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties across all large pub­lic sec­tor ser­vice providers in the re­gion. Re­lated to this, the NZIA is en­cour­ag­ing Phil Twyford to pub­lish a pub­lic sec­tor Pro­gramme of Work for all of New Zealand.

The NZIA has also noted that the Aus­tralian Govern­ment has com­mit­ted to es­tab­lish­ing a Na­tional Hous­ing Fi­nance and In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion to op­er­ate "an af­ford­able hous­ing bond ag­gre­ga­tor to en­cour­age greater pri­vate and in­sti­tu­tional in­vest­ment and pro­vide cheaper and longert­erm fi­nance to reg­is­tered providers of af­ford­able hous­ing.”

It ap­par­ently wants this sort of op­tion to be put on the ta­ble here too. And why not? Over to you Phil.

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